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Swakopmund, Namibia

A tracking, telemetry and command station was constructed at the South Atlantic coastal town of Swakopmund in central Namibia in east Africa. It was completed in July 2001 year following an agreement signed in October 2000 between the governments of China and Namibia in Beijing. Windhoek Consulting Engineers was contracted by the Chinese to build the station. China's Xi'an Satellite Control Center in Shaanxi operates the Swakopmund ground station. Namibia was chosen as the spaceship would be right over the country, specifically west Namibia, during its re-entry and braking phases. A specific site just north of Swakopmund to the east of the Henties Bay-Swakopmund road and opposite the Swakopmund Salt Works, was identified for the center. The station, constructed at a cost of about N$12 million, covers an area of 150m x 85m and consists of an administration building, kitchen and dining complex, garage and generator room, and dormitory complex, which is enclosed by by a two-meter high wall. Two antennas or satellite dishes - 5m and 9m in diameter, with the latter reaching a height of 16m - were erected. The station houses 20 permanent staff during a mission phase, while about five personnel stay there continuously to maintain the equipment. While an average mission will last about two weeks, the technicians will start preparing and adjusting the equipment two months before the starting date of a mission.

Swakopmund, Namibia's second biggest town and traditional "summer capital", was of major significance as a harbor during the German colonial era, although the water at the coast is actually too shallow and a protected bay is missing. It is widely known for its German architecture and is also a popular tourist destination for many Namibians. The town is approached through the endless expanses of the Namib Desert, one of the world's largest wilderness areas, through the mists (it is almost always misty in the morning and late afternoon) Bavarian spires and elaborate Germanic architecture rise through the fog banks. Just outside town is the extraordinary Moon Landscape, a seemingly never-ending series of bizarre hills that look like pictures taken of Mars, or the Sea of Tranquillity. It is best visited at sunrise or sunset.

Swakopmund is Namibia's playground, a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the heat of the interior and to have a little adventure. The city itself resembles a small German town and manages to create a feeling of timelessness with its palm-lined streets, seaside promenades, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and museums. And while there's plenty to do within city limits, the real action happens in the desert surrounding Swakopmund. Quad-biking, sand-boarding, sand-skiing, parasailing and dozens of other guided adrenaline inducing activities are available by reservation from many of the adventure companies operating in the area. At Walvis Bay, visitors can join a dolphin cruise or explore the lagoon on a kayak tour.

The Governments of the Republic of Namibia through the Ministry of Education and the People’s Republic of China signed an Employment Agreement to facilitate the employment of Namibians at China Telemetry, Tracking and Command Station at Swakopmund in the capital on 26 March 2012. The Employment Agreement seconds a coorporation agreement between the two countries signed earlier in 2000 to setup a Telemetry, Tracking and Command Station for the China Manned Space Program and also to help Namibia develop its own Space Science and Technology capacity. The purpose of the station is to manage and control the re-entry or landing procedure of the China’s Manned Spacecraft. This station has successfully participated in six (6) space launches run by the China Manned Space program so far.

On its part, China agreed to train Namibians in the area of Space Science and Technology as part of skills transfer and so far eleven (11) Namibians have been trained in this area. Five (5) of them have successfully completed their Masters Degree while the rest obtained Certificates. Against this background, the two governments drafted and signed the Employment Agreement that will facilitate the employment of trained Namibians at the Swakopmund Station.

In his remarks, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Alfred Ilukena, expressed concern over the poor representation of Africa in the area of Space Science and Technology. Ilukena emphasized that most African countries lack human, technical and financial resources to utilize existing space-based infrastructure for even the most basic applications in Meteorology, Communications and Natural Resources Management. Ilukena said the agreement will allow Namibians to further gain knowledge in the area of space science and extensively master the art of this technology for the economic development of the country.

On his part the Director of China Space Tracking, Telemetry and Command Station, Dong Weidong, on behalf of the Chinese government commended the Namibia government for their unwavering support since the development of the station. Weidong was confident that through this corporation Namibian technicians will be more aware of operation and management mode of the world’s advanced Space Tracking, Telemetry and Command station. The event also witnessed the handing over of degrees and certificates to the Namibian students who recently completed their studies in Space Science in China and to be employed at the space station.




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